By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, and General News:
CBS Fires Producer of 'Magnum P.I.' After Workplace Complaints
CBS announced that it had fired Peter M. Lenkov, one of its most prolific producers, after a human resources investigation concluded that he had created a toxic workplace environment on his shows. Lenkov was an executive producer on three CBS prime-time dramas, all of them reboots of earlier programs centered on law enforcement: "Hawaii 5-O," which appeared on the network from 2010 until its recent finale; "MacGyver," which was renewed for a fifth season; and "Magnum P.I.," which is headed for a third season. "Peter Lenkov is no longer the executive producer overseeing 'MacGyver' and 'Magnum P.I.,' and the studio has ended its relationship with him," CBS Television Studios said in a statement. In a statement of his own, Lenkov said: "Now is the time to listen, and I am listening. It's difficult to hear that the working environment I ran was not the working environment my colleagues deserved, and for that, I am deeply sorry."
Actors' Union Approves Berkshire Shows
For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, Actors' Equity is agreeing to allow a few of its members to perform onstage. The union, which represents 51,000 actors and stage managers around the country, said that it had given the green light to two summer shows in the Berkshires region of Western Massachusetts: an outdoor production of the musical "Godspell" and an indoor production of the solo show "Harry Clarke." In recent weeks, multiple theaters featuring nonunion actors have begun resuming performances -- in some cases outdoors, and in almost all cases with social distancing -- and a group of Equity actors collectively developed an outdoor performance piece in the Hudson Valley. Many actors have also been performing online. "Godspell" and "Harry Clarke," both scheduled to begin in early August in Pittsfield, Mass., are now likely to be the first productions in which union actors will perform in person for paying audiences in the United States since the threat of infection prompted Broadway and the nation's regional theaters to shut down in mid-March. Citing safety concerns, Equity had barred its members from in-person auditions, rehearsals, and performances.
Theater Artists of Color Enumerate Demands for Change
A coalition of theater artists, known by the title of its first statement, "We See You, White American Theater," has posted online a 29-page set of demands that, if adopted, would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the theater ecosystem in America. The coalition, made up of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) theatermakers, has declined to make anyone available to answer questions, and says on its website that it has no leadership or spokesperson. "We understand the desire for individual interviews, but this is a collective movement and it would not be appropriate for any of us to speak on behalf of the all," the group said in response to an email inquiry. The group's initial statement was signed by more than 300 artists and then endorsed by thousands online; among its more visible supporters are the playwrights Lynn Nottage and Dominique Morisseau, who called attention to the list of demands online.
Disney World Stokes a Political Firestorm
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. reopened, and Disney has been posting marketing videos online to highlight the safety procedures it has designed to protect visitors and employees. Some of the 1,000-plus responses to that particular video were supportive. Others were incredulous, with people using words like "irresponsible" and "disappointing." Disney World is reopening? When coronavirus infections have soared in Florida? "Stay. Closed. Please," one person wrote. The pandemic has devastated Disney's businesses, and reopening its signature tourist attraction -- with restricted capacity and government approval -- is a major part of the company's comeback attempt. However, in doing so, Disney is stepping into a politicized debate surrounding the virus and efforts to keep people safe, where even the wearing of masks has become a point of bitter contention.
An Ailing Film Industry
Italy's torrid summers have made outdoor movie showings under the stars a favorite entertainment choice of the season. Even the first Venice Film Festival, in August 1932, was held on the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior at the Lido, the island just off the center of Venice. This year though, several nonprofit cultural and social organizations have struggled to get their summer film festivals going after film distributors refused to rent them many requested titles, from the Harry Potter series to "BlacKkKlansman" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." The reason? These nonprofit organizations screen films for free, even as Italy's fabled film industry is reeling with many theaters closed because of the coronavirus. Normally the Milan open air initiative screens 10 films during the summer. This year, it will show only four, after five distributors for Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, 20th Century Fox, and RAI Cinema refused to issue rights to films that Sansone's organization had chosen with input from local residents, he said. "The distributors told us that if we show them for free, they can't give us films," he said. Yet those in the business say that the pandemic dealt such a blow that it put the survival of Italy's film industry at risk, and that giving unfettered free access to films would only make matters worse.
Museums in the Berkshires Plan to Reopen
Three major cultural institutions in the Berkshires will reopen this month, following the greenlight from Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, who said on Thursday that the state would move into Phase 3 of its reopening plans. In a joint statement, Mass MoCA, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Clark Art Institute outlined the programming changes and social-distancing measures they will be taking to ensure that visitors can return to the museums safely. Mass MoCA, which has performing arts venues, reopened on July 11th, and plans to resume some smaller performances starting July 18th. The galleries at the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Clark Art Institute both reopened on July 12th. Each museum requires advance ticketing reservations for staggered entry, and visitors are required to wear face coverings indoors. The institutions are also planning to use visitor information gathered at ticketing for contact-tracing purposes.
Students' Calls to Remove a Mural Were Answered. Now Comes a Lawsuit.
For years, there has been a simmering debate over what to do with a New Deal-era mural at the University of Kentucky that students have denounced as a racist sanitizing of history and a painful reminder of slavery in a public setting. The wall-length mural, a 1934 fresco by Ann Rice O'Hanlon, is covered with vignettes that are intended to illustrate Kentucky's history. At the center of the mural is an image of enslaved people tending to tobacco plants, and at the bottom, there is a Native American man holding a tomahawk and peering out from behind a tree at a white woman as if poised for attack. Since 2015, university administrators have tried to find a resolution that doesn't involve removing the mural. Last month, as many predominantly white institutions in the United States were being forced to answer for their history of racism in the wake of George Floyd's killing, the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, decided that it was time for the mural to be removed. Now, Wendell Berry -- the writer, farmer, and longtime Kentuckian -- is suing the university over its decision to remove the mural, arguing that because it was created through a government program, it is owned by the people of Kentucky and cannot be removed by the university.
Artists + Scholars Warn
The killing of George Floyd has brought an intense moment of racial reckoning in the United States. As protests spread across the country, they have been accompanied by open letters calling for -- and promising -- change at white-dominated institutions across the arts and academia. Last week, a different type of letter appeared online. Titled "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate," and signed by 153 prominent artists and intellectuals, it began with an acknowledgment of "powerful protests for racial and social justice" before pivoting to a warning against an "intolerant climate" engulfing the culture. "The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted," the letter declared, citing "an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty." "We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other," it continues. "As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes." The letter, which was published by Harper's Magazine and will also appear in several leading international publications, surfaces a debate that has been going on privately in newsrooms, universities, and publishing houses that have been navigating demands for diversity and inclusion, while also asking which demands -- and the social media dynamics that propel them -- go too far.
Brooks Brothers Files for Bankruptcy
Brooks Brothers, the retailer known for dressing the great and good of the United States since 1818, filed for bankruptcy, buckling under the pressure from the coronavirus pandemic after years of faltering sales as customers embraced more casual apparel and sales shifted online. The company, founded and based in New York, filed for Chapter 11 restructuring proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Claudio Del Vecchio, the Italian industrialist who bought the brand in 2001 and still owns the company, told The New York Times in May that he would not rule out Chapter 11 as a possibility. Brooks Brothers said in an emailed statement that the filing would allow it to obtain additional financing as it facilitated a sale. The bankruptcy is the latest high-profile retail fall during the pandemic, which has caused widespread store closures and sales declines, reshaping the shopping streets of cities across the country. Since May, major names like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J.Crew have all been pushed into Chapter 11 proceedings. The chains, including Brooks Brothers, plan to keep operating, though most likely in a pared-back fashion.
Graffiti Is Back in Virus-Worn New York
While most New Yorkers grudgingly accepted New York City's lockdown in March, one community eagerly embraced it: graffiti writers. Deserted commercial streets with gated storefronts offered thousands of blank canvases for quick tags or two-tone throwies, while decorative murals in gentrifying neighborhoods were sprayed over as the streets rendered a definitive critique. From the South Bronx to East New York, a new generation of graffiti writers has emerged, many of whom have never hit a trainyard or the inside of a subway car. Like early taggers who grew up in a city beset by crime, grime and empty coffers, today's generation is dealing with its own intense fears over the devastating effects of the coronavirus on communities and the economy. While graffiti never disappeared completely, in recent weeks it has become ever more visible citywide. The increase in graffiti is for many residents an unwelcome sign of the recent economic upheaval, especially for property owners who take on the Sisyphean task of trying to erase it all.
U.K. Announces $2 Billion Bailout to Help Keep the Arts Afloat
Britain's arts sector, largely shuttered since March because of the pandemic and warning of an imminent collapse, is being given a lifeline through what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as a "world-leading" rescue package for cultural and heritage institutions. The organizations will be handed £1.57 billion (about $2 billion). Johnson said in a statement that the money would "help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring art groups and venues across the U.K. can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down." The money will go to a variety of recipients, including Britain's "local basement" music venues and museums, he added, although he did not provide details. Museums in England were allowed to reopen, but it is unclear when theaters and music venues will be permitted to do so as well.
Court Ruling in Monaco Ends One Piece of a $2 Billion Art Dispute
A long-running dispute between Yves Bouvier, a Swiss businessman who sold $2 billion worth of artworks, and Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire who bought them, took a decisive step in Bouvier's favor when a Monaco court upheld a lower court's ruling to dismiss the criminal investigation against him because the prosecution of him had been unfair. The ruling ends the criminal procedures in Monaco against Bouvier, who was arrested following a criminal complaint by Rybolovlev in early 2015. "It is a total and definitive victory in Monaco," Bouvier said in a statement. "For the last five years, I have been claiming my innocence, and today I have been vindicated by the Monaco courts." The messy battle began several years ago when Bouvier helped Rybolovlev buy 38 pieces of world-class art for $2 billion over a period of about 12 years, including works such as "Salvator Mundi," a depiction of Christ attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Rybolovlev has said in court papers that he believed that Bouvier was acting as his agent and adviser on the transactions, and he paid Bouvier a fee for his services. He then later discovered, he said, that Bouvier had bought many of the items in advance, then flipped them to him at a markup of $1 billion.
Turkey Destroys Ancient Treasure
There was something exceptional about Hasankeyf that made visitors fall in love with the town on first sight. Graced with mosques and shrines, it lay nestled beneath great sandstone cliffs on the banks of the River Tigris. Gardens were filled with figs and pomegranates, and vine-covered teahouses hung over the water. The golden cliffs, honeycombed with caves, are thought to have been used in Neolithic times. An ancient fortress marked what was once the edge of the Roman Empire. The ruins of a medieval bridge recalled when the town was a wealthy trading center on the Silk Road. Now it is all lost forever, submerged beneath the rising waters of the Ilisu Dam, the latest of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's megaprojects, which flooded 100 miles of the upper Tigris River and its tributaries, including the once-stunning valley.
Hagia Sophia to Be Used as a Mosque Again
Since it was built in the sixth century, changing hands from empire to empire, Hagia Sophia has been a Byzantine cathedral, a mosque under the Ottomans, and finally a museum, making it one of the world's most potent symbols of Christian-Muslim rivalry and of Turkey's more recent devotion to secularism.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree ordering Hagia Sophia to be opened for Muslim prayers, an action likely to provoke international furor around a World Heritage Site cherished by Christians and Muslims alike for its religious significance, for its stunning structure and as a symbol of conquest. The presidential decree came minutes after a Turkish court announced that it had revoked Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, which for the last 80 years had made it a monument of relative harmony and a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.
Kaepernick Signs Production Deal with Disney
Colin Kaepernick and the Walt Disney Company announced a production deal that will see the activist quarterback produce "scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity" for the media giant's various platforms, including ESPN. Work has already begun on a documentary series that will explore the last five years of Kaepernick's life, as he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before National Football League (NFL) games to protest racism and police brutality, and later accused team owners of colluding to keep him out of the league. It is a first-look deal, meaning Disney has the right of first refusal over projects from Ra Vision Media, Kaepernick's company. The deal is just one of many Kaepernick has signed in the last year to produce media about himself and the topics he cares about, even as he has remained silent publicly.
Delayed Testing and Instant Anger as Major League Baseball Struggles to Resume
Major League Baseball (MLB) triumphantly declared morning that it would announce a 60-game schedule on its cable network that evening. Around the same time, the two teams from last year's World Series, the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros, were canceling their Monday workouts for safety reasons -- and blaming MLB. The reason for the holdup was a delay in receiving the results of the coronavirus tests taken by players from both teams. The Oakland Athletics' tests, too, had not even been delivered to the MLB laboratory in Utah. The St. Louis Cardinals also canceled their workout because of the testing delay. The players will be tested, as planned, every other day through the end of the World Series, and bad news has already been pouring in. Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, Colorado's Charlie Blackmon, Kansas City's Salvador Perez, San Diego's Tommy Pham, Texas' Joey Gallo, and the Yankees' D.J. LeMahieu are among the many players who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Demand Snyder Couldn't Afford to Dismiss
After decades of controversy, it took a serious threat to Dan Snyder's team's finances, and those of the rest of the NFL, to get the owner of the Washington Redskins to consider changing the team's name, which Native Americans (and many dictionaries) consider to be a slur. The final straw? FedEx, which pays about $8 million a year for the naming rights to the team's stadium in Landover, Md., and whose chairman has been trying to sell his shares in the team, said that it would back out of the deal if the name was not changed in a letter that The New York Times was allowed to review. On July 2nd, the legal counsel for FedEx sent a letter to his counterpart with the team, saying that the company would demand its name be removed from the stadium, where it has been displayed since 1999, if the team name was not changed. "We are hopeful that a name change and a new head coach will help move public perception in a positive direction, restore the team's reputation and lessen our deep concerns," the letter said. A day later, Snyder said that the team "will undergo a thorough review" of its name, bending to a company that committed to paying more than $200 million for its affiliation with the team.
Trump Supports "Redskins" Name as Team Considers Changing It
The battle over the name of the Washington, D.C., NFL team deepened as Trump defended it even as more retailers said they would pull the team's gear off their shelves. "They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct," Trump said on Twitter, adding a reference to the MLB team that is also considering changing its name. Trump's statement came as Walmart and Target, two of the country's largest retailers, said that they would stop selling Washington's merchandise on their websites. Target is in the process of removing it from its stores as well, according to a company spokesman.
Ivy League Suspends Sports for The Fall
The Ivy League became the first Division I conference to suspend all fall sports, including football, leaving open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the coronavirus pandemic is better controlled by then. "We simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk," the Ivy League Council of Presidents said in a statement. "We are entrusted to create and maintain an educational environment that is guided by health and safety considerations. There can be no greater responsibility -- and that is the basis for this difficult decision." Though the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports.
Stanford Drops 11 Sports to Cut Costs
Stanford was already facing some difficult financial choices as it tried to support one of the nation's largest athletics departments. The coronavirus pandemic forced a dramatic and painful decision: Faced with a nearly $25 million deficit next year, Stanford became the first known Power Five school to eliminate athletic programs because of the pandemic, announcing hat 11 of its 36 varsity sports will be shuttered next year. The school will discontinue men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball, and wrestling after the 2020-21 academic year. Stanford also is eliminating 20 support staff positions.
Womens National Basketball Association Players Say Stop Owner
The Womens National Basketball Association (WNBA) announced that its upcoming season would be "dedicated to social justice with games honoring the Black Lives Matter movement." It did not seem to be a relatively controversial or surprising message, considering how engaged WNBA players have been in the movement, which has also drawn support from a wide range of corporations and even the most controversy-averse sports leagues, like the NFL, since the killing of George Floyd in May. Yet the expression -- and the movement it supports -- bothered at least one WNBA owner, who also happens to be a sitting senator in the midst of a difficult campaign for her seat. Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, is a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream and has been vocally criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and the league's embrace of it. Loeffler is now facing widespread denunciations from players. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a statement distancing the league from Loeffler. Now, the WNBA is grappling with questions about whether an owner who appears to be fundamentally opposed to the league's stated values can remain in her position.
Eagles' Receiver Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Tweets
The star wide receiver DeSean Jackson apologized for sharing an anti-Semitic quotation attributed to Hitler, after that and other social media posts were widely condemned, including by his team. In the series of posts made on Instagram, Jackson also praised Louis Farrakhan, a minister notorious for his history of anti-Semitic comments. Jackson's team, the Philadelphia Eagles, condemned the posts in a statement, calling them "offensive, harmful and absolutely appalling." "They have no place in our society, and are not condoned or supported in any way by the organization," the team said. "We reiterated to DeSean the importance of not only apologizing but also using his platform to take action to promote unity, equality and respect." It's unclear whether Jackson would be disciplined for his posts. The team said that it was "continuing to evaluate the circumstances" in weighing action.
Positive Banned Substance Tests for Two Racehorses
Two undefeated horses trained by the Hall of Famer Bob Baffert tested positive for a banned substance in Arkansas, a person familiar with the results of the split-sample test said. One of the horses, Charlatan, won a division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2nd. The other, a filly named Gamine, won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in New York on June 20th by nearly 19 lengths in a stakes-record time of 1:32.55, a performance that inspired talk of the filly taking on the Kentucky Derby, which is scheduled for September 5th. The horses had two samples test positive for lidocaine, a local numbing agent, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case had not been fully adjudicated. The New York Times reported on the positive tests of their first samples in late May. The anesthetic is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and use of it carries a penalty of a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense. In the absence of mitigating circumstances, the horse would also be disqualified and forfeit its purse. Baffert, who had exercised his right to have a second test performed, planned to dispute the findings and argue that the positive tests were a result of environmental contamination by one of his employees.
Tennis Tours Hope to Salvage Their Seasons, but It is Not Looking Good
The path continues to get bumpier for the professional tennis tours as they attempt to salvage seasons disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. For now, both the ATP Tour and the WTA are set to resume play in August: the men in Washington, D.C.; the women in Palermo, Italy. For now, the European Union would deny entry to travelers from certain countries, including the United States and Russia. It is unclear whether athletes will be exempt, and there are still concerns about the possibility of mandatory quarantines. The Associated Press also reported that China's General Administration of Sport said that the country would not host any international sports events for the remainder of 2020.
Slurs Are Off the Table
The fight against systemic racism has taken aim at Scrabble. An agreement is at hand to bar offensive terms, though some players endorse using them for points. Several members of the North American Scrabble Players Association have called on the organization to ban the use of an anti-Black racial slur, and as many as 225 other offensive terms, from its lexicon. Hasbro, which owns the rights to Scrabble in North America, said that the players association had "agreed to remove all slurs from their word list for Scrabble tournament play, which is managed solely by NASPA and available only to members." Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro, also said the company will amend Scrabble's official rules "to make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game."
Track Stars to Race on Separate Tracks
Call it extreme social distancing. Twenty-eight athletes will compete in eight disciplines at seven different tracks in Europe and the United States. Some of the events are seldom-contested distances -- including the 300-meter hurdles, 100 yards, and 3x100 meter relay -- chosen to take the pressure off athletes who might be far from their top form in their usual events. Using satellites and synchronizing technology, organizers will start each of the three participants simultaneously with digitally controlled starting guns. Races will be broadcast with a two-minute delay to account for the lag in transmission to the broadcast center in Zurich, which will synchronize the television images from all three venues and use a triple split screen.
The Gaming World Loses Its Mind After Livestream
When Tyler Blevins, who is better known in the video gaming world as Ninja, posted a cryptic tweet that seemed to hint at some sort of announcement, his ardent fans thought he might reveal the kind of big-dollar contract one would expect from baseball or basketball stars. Instead, Blevins, who was left without an online home when the streaming platform Mixer announced in June that it would shut down, played video games live on YouTube and promised fans that more streams were coming "sooner rather than later." That Blevins could generate a flurry of speculation with one tweet speaks to the influence of one of the world's most famous online personalities and to the increasing popularity of high-profile gamers. Blevins has said in interviews he would like to be as well-known as the basketball star LeBron James.
London Police Apologize for Handcuffing Two Black Athletes
The head of the London Metropolitan Police said that the force's handcuffing practices would be reviewed, after officers pulled a top British sprinter and her partner from their car and handcuffed them in front of their 3-month-old son. The athlete, Bianca Williams, 26, a European and Commonwealth games gold medalist, and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos, 25, a Portuguese track star, were driving home from training in Maida Vale, a well-off neighborhood in West London, when they were stopped by the police. They were handcuffed for 45 minutes on the side of the road while the police searched the vehicle. The London Metropolitan Police said in a statement that the vehicle was stopped because it was "being driven in a manner that raised suspicion," but Williams accused the officers of racial profiling. She said that she and dos Santos were pulled over only because they were Black and driving an expensive Mercedes in a wealthy section of the city. The police have apologized to Williams and dos Santos for causing distress but have denied wrongdoing, despite criticism that the encounter was the latest example of "stop and search" tactics disproportionately targeting Black people in Britain.
South Korean Triathlete's Suicide Exposes Team's Culture of Abuse
Just after midnight on June 26th, Choi Suk-hyeon, a promising South Korean triathlete, sent two text messages. The first, to a teammate, asked for help looking after her pet dog. The other, to her mother, was more ominous. In that message Choi, 22, told her mother how much she loved her, before adding: "Mom, please make the world know the crimes they have committed." To her parents and former teammates, it was clear who she meant by "they." After Choi committed suicide, her family released a spiral-bound diary and secret recordings in which the young triathlete documented years of physical and psychological abuse she said she suffered at the hands of her team's coach, doctor, and two senior teammates. In one recording, the team's doctor, Ahn Ju-hyeon, can be heard repeatedly hitting her. "Lock your jaws! Come here!" Ahn is heard saying in the March 2019 recording, followed by a series of thudding strikes. The diaries and recordings, which were reviewed by The New York Times, have set off a firestorm of criticism and national soul searching about the corruption and abuse that has long pervaded the country's sports community.
Facebook Stumbles in Meeting With Ad Organizers
Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's two top executives, met with civil rights groups on Tuesday in an attempt to mollify them over how the social network treats hate speech on its site. But Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, and Ms. Sandberg, the chief operating officer, failed to win its critics over. For more than an hour over Zoom, the duo, along with other Facebook executives, discussed the company's handling of hate speech with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Color of Change and other groups. Those organizations have recently helped push hundreds of companies, such as Unilever and Best Buy, to pause their advertising on Facebook to protest its handling of toxic speech and misinformation.
Facebook Lets Hate Flourish
Auditors handpicked by Facebook to examine its policies said that the company had not done enough to protect people on the platform from discriminatory posts and ads and that its decisions to leave up Trump's inflammatory posts were "significant setbacks for civil rights." The 89-page audit put Facebook in an awkward position as the presidential campaign heats up. The report gave fuel to the company's detractors, who said the site had allowed hate speech and misinformation to flourish. The audit also placed the social network in the spotlight for an issue it had worked hard to avoid since the 2016 election: That it may once again be negatively influencing American voters. Now Facebook has to decide whether its approach to hateful speech and noxious content -- which was to leave it alone in the name of free expression -- remains tenable. That decision puts pressure on Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, who has repeatedly said that his company was not an arbiter of truth and that it would not police politicians' posts.
Facebook Muzzles Trump Ally
Facebook announced that it was removing the personal accounts of Roger J. Stone Jr., Trump's friend and ally, because they had ties to numerous fake accounts that were active around the 2016 presidential election. The company made the announcement as part of its monthly report on removing disinformation. Stone's personal accounts on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, were entwined with a U.S.-based network of accounts that had links to the Proud Boys, a group that promotes white supremacy, the company said. The social network banned the Proud Boys group in 2018.
TikTok App Not Allowed - Wait, Nevermind!
Amazon asked its employees to delete the Chinese-owned video app TikTok from their cellphones, putting the tech giant at the center of growing suspicion and paranoia about the app. Almost five hours later, Amazon reversed course, saying the email to workers was sent in error. In the initial email, Amazon officials said that because of "security risks," employees must delete the app from any devices that "access Amazon email." Employees had to remove the app by Friday to remain able to obtain mobile access to their Amazon email, the note said. In a statement sent later, company spokeswoman Kristin Brown said, "There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok." By then, however, the initial email had already added to the storm surrounding TikTok, which has been popular with young audiences in the United States for its short, fun videos and is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance. Due to its Chinese ownership and heightened tensions between the United States and China over issues, such as trade and technology dominance, TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny in Washington over its security.
Facebook Questions Beijing's New Law
Google, Facebook, and Twitter said that they would temporarily stop processing Hong Kong government requests for user data, as the companies reviewed a sweeping national security law that has chilled political expression in the city. The companies said they were still assessing the law, which has already been used to arrest people who have called for Hong Kong independence. Facebook said its review would include human rights considerations. The surprising consensus from the rival American internet giants, which each used similar language in each statement, was a rare public questioning of Chinese policy. It was also a stark illustration of the deep quandaries the companies face with the sweeping, punitive law. TikTok went even further than the American companies, saying that it would withdraw its app from stores in Hong Kong and make the app inoperable to users there within a few days.
Standoff Brews as Hong Kong Squeezes Tech
As Hong Kong grapples with a draconian new security law, the tiny territory is emerging as the front line in a global fight between the United States and China over censorship, surveillance, and the future of the internet. Long a bastion of online freedom on the digital border of China's tightly managed internet, Hong Kong's uneasy status changed radically in just a week. The new law mandates police censorship and covert digital surveillance, rules that can be applied to online speech across the world. Now, the Hong Kong government is crafting web controls to appease the most prolific censor on the planet, the Chinese Communist Party. The changes threaten to further inflame tensions between China and the United States, in which technology itself has become a means by which the two economic superpowers seek to spread influence and undercut each other.
Russia Arrests Space Agency Official, Accusing Him of Treason
Russia's secret police on Tuesday arrested a respected former reporter who worked in recent months as an adviser to the head of the country's space agency, accusing him of treason for passing secrets to a NATO country. The journalist, Ivan I. Safronov, was suspected of working for the intelligence service of an unspecified NATO country, passing on "classified information about military-technical cooperation, defense and the security of the Russian Federation." What information that could be, however, was unclear. Safronov only started working at the space agency, Roscosmos, in May. Before that, he worked for more than a decade as a well-regarded journalist for Kommersant and then Vedomosti, both privately owned business newspapers with no obvious access to state secrets.
Philippine Congress Officially Shuts Down Leading Broadcaster
Philippine lawmakers formally shut down the country's largest broadcast network, the latest major blow against the news media as President Rodrigo Duterte cracks down on outlets that have been critical of his leadership. After 13 hearings, a committee of the House of Representatives -- most of whose members are allied with Duterte -- voted by an overwhelming majority to deny ABS-CBN's application for renewal of its broadcast franchise. The network had been forced off the air in May, after the franchise expired. "We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission," said Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN's president and chief executive. He said the network was "deeply hurt."
Alliance Brings the Flag Down in Mississippi
A band of Black Lives Matter organizers marched last month through the streets of Jackson, with the Mississippi State flag's removal among their demands. Despite the fury, however, it seemed a false hope in a state that had proudly flown it for 126 years. "The state flag, we thought, was a constant," Calvert White said on a recent afternoon. However, something that had seemed impossible was suddenly inevitable. State troopers folded the flag at the Capitol for the last time, a turnabout that was powered by a coalition of seemingly unlikely allies, including business-minded conservatives, Baptist ministers, and the Black Lives Matter activists. They were bound by a mutual affection for a state not always understood by the rest of the world and a recognition that the flag presented complications as Mississippi confronts a daunting roster of struggles.
States May Curb 'Faithless Electors,' Supreme Court Rules
States can require members of the Electoral College to cast their votes for the presidential candidates they had pledged to support, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, curbing the independence of electors and limiting one potential source of uncertainty in the 2020 presidential election. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring electors to vote as they had promised, but recent court decisions had come to opposite conclusions about whether electors may disregard their pledges. The Supreme Court resolved the dispute in a pair of cases concerning electors in Washington State and Colorado, by saying that states are entitled to remove or punish electors who changed their votes. In states without such penalties, electors remain free to change their votes.
Supreme Court Upholds Regulation Letting Employers Opt Out of Birth Control Coverage
The Supreme Court upheld a Trump administration regulation that lets employers with religious or moral objections limit women's access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act and could result in as many as 126,000 women losing contraceptive coverage from their employers. The 7-to-2 decision was the latest turn in seven years of fierce litigation over the "contraception mandate," a signature initiative of the Obama administration that required most employers to provide cost-free coverage for contraception and that the Trump administration has sought to limit. In a second major decision on religious rights, the court ruled by another 7-to-2 vote that employment discrimination laws did not apply to teachers in religious schools. It also, by a 5-to-4 vote, said that state programs that provide scholarships to students in private schools may not exclude religious schools.
Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Native American Rights in Oklahoma
The Supreme Court has ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation, a decision that could reshape the criminal justice system by preventing state authorities from prosecuting offenses there that involve Native Americans. The 5-to-4 decision, potentially one of the most consequential legal victories for Native Americans in decades, could have far-reaching implications for the people who live across what the Court affirmed was Indian Country. The lands include much of Tulsa, Oklahoma's second-biggest city.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/us/supreme-court-oklahoma-mcgirt-creek-nation.html?searchResultPosition=1 Dakota Pipeline Ordered Closed
A U.S. court ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access oil pipeline over concerns about its potential environmental impact, a big win for the Native American tribes and green groups who fought the major pipeline's route across a crucial water supply for years. The decision by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia followed the cancellation of another high-profile U.S. pipeline project and came as a blow to the Trump administration's efforts to lift the domestic fossil fuels industry by rolling back environmental red tape. According to the ruling, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted an easement to Energy Transfer LP to construct and operate a segment of the oil pipeline beneath Lake Oahe in South Dakota, because it failed to produce an adequate Environmental Impact Statement. The court ordered Energy Transfer to shut and empty the 570,000 barrel-per-day line within 30 days, closing off the biggest artery transporting crude oil out of North Dakota's Bakken shale basin to Midwest and Gulf Coast regions.
Trump Stokes White Resentment
Trump mounted an explicit defense of the Confederate flag, suggesting that NASCAR had made a mistake in banning it from its auto racing events, while falsely accusing a top Black driver, Darrell Wallace Jr., of perpetrating a hoax involving a noose found in his garage. The remarks are part of a pattern. Almost every day in the last few weeks, Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment, portraying himself as a protector of an old order that polls show much of America believes perpetuates entrenched racism and wants to move beyond.
Trump Administration Signals Formal Withdrawal from World Health Organization
The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that the United States will withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO), a move that would cut off one of the largest sources of funding from the premier global health organization in the middle of a pandemic. "The United States' notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the U.N. secretary general, who is the depository for the W.H.O.," a senior administration official said. The departure would take effect sometime next year, should the United States meet established conditions of giving a one-year notice and fulfilling its current financial obligations.
Manhattan Prosecutor's Getting Closer to Accessing Trump Tax Returns
A day after winning a Supreme Court victory over Trump, the Manhattan district attorney moved one step closer to obtaining some of the president's financial records when a lower-court judge acted quickly to hear any final arguments from Trump's lawyers. The federal judge in Manhattan who first presided over the dispute issued an order asking the lawyers and the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to inform him as to whether any further action was needed in light of the Supreme Court's ruling. The judge, Victor Marrero, has scheduled a hearing, when Trump's lawyers are expected to continue to fight against turning over the records to Vance.
Trump Commutes Stone's Sentence
Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes, using the power of his office to spare a former campaign adviser days before Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term. In a lengthy written statement punctuated by the sort of inflammatory language and angry grievances characteristic of the president's Twitter feed, the White House denounced the "overzealous prosecutors" who convicted Stone on "process-based charges" stemming from the "witch hunts" and "Russia hoax" investigation.
As November Looms, So Does the Most Litigious Election Ever
Four months before Election Day, a barrage of court rulings and lawsuits has turned one of the most divisive elections in memory into one that is on track to be the most litigated ever. With voting amid a pandemic as the backdrop, at stake are dozens of lawsuits around the country that will determine how easy -- or hard -- it will be to cast a ballot. In his book "Election Meltdown," Richard L. Hasen, a legal scholar at the University of California-Irvine, calculated that election-related litigation nearly tripled on average between 1996 and 2018. In an interview, Hasen said that 2020 is on track to become the most litigated election season ever.
Universities Try to Preserve Foreign Students' Visas; Trump Threatens Their Tax Status
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sued the Trump administration in federal court, seeking to block a directive that would strip foreign college students of their visas if the courses they take this fall are entirely online. University leaders and immigrant advocates called the new policy cruel and reckless, with several education groups saying they planned to join the legal battle. The Massachusetts attorney general vowed to support Harvard and MIT's efforts to block the rules, which were announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The universities argued that the policy was politically motivated and would throw higher education into chaos. It was widely seen as an effort by the White House to pressure colleges and universities into reopening and abandoning the cautious approaches that many have adopted to reduce coronavirus transmission.
The battle between the Trump administration and some of America's top universities escalated, with Harvard and MIT seeking a court order to protect foreign students from losing their visas, and the president threatening the tax-exempt status of institutions that he claimed indoctrinate students. After a brief virtual hearing, a federal judge in Boston put off a decision on the universities' challenge to new federal rules that would revoke the visas of foreign students studying entirely online this fall, and set another hearing. Lawyers for the two universities argued in court papers that the new rules from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which require students to take at least one in-person class for their F-1 student visas to remain valid, would cruelly and recklessly upend the lives of tens of thousands of international students and threaten public health.
Deutsche Bank Settles Dispute Over Epstein
When Jeffrey Epstein moved his money, Deutsche Bank didn't ask many questions. In a $150 million settlement, the New York Department of Financial Services said that Epstein, a convicted sex offender, had engaged in suspicious transactions for years, even though Deutsche Bank deemed him a "high risk" client from the moment he became a customer in summer 2013. "Despite knowing Mr. Epstein's terrible criminal history, the bank inexcusably failed to detect or prevent millions of dollars of suspicious transactions," Linda A. Lacewell, the department's superintendent, said in a statement. A year and a day after Epstein was arrested on federal sex-trafficking charges, the settlement described how bank employees had relied on informal meetings and institutional momentum to allow suspicious activity to proceed largely unchecked. Instead of performing appropriate due diligence on Epstein and the activity in his accounts, regulators wrote, the bank was focused on his potential to "generate millions of dollars of revenue as well as leads for other lucrative clients."
A Shot to Protect Against H.I.V.?
A single shot every two months prevents H.I.V. better than the most commonly used daily pill, Truvada, researchers reported. At the moment, Truvada and Descovy, made by Gilead Sciences, are the only drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for prevention of H.I.V. infection, a strategy called PrEP. Gilead has heavily been criticized for setting a high price for the pills. Additional options for prevention are sorely needed, to say nothing of a cure. About 1.7 million people became infected with H.I.V. in 2019, bringing the global total to 38 million.
'They'll Kill Me' Floyd Pleaded; Officer to Floyd: 'It Takes ... a Lot of Oxygen to Talk'
George Floyd's dying moments have played on an endless loop, horrifying the world and prompting a spasm of street protests, but newly released evidence reveals an even more desperate scene than previously known in the moments before an officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck. Floyd uttered "I can't breathe" not a handful of times, as previous videotapes showed, but more than 20 times in all. He cried out not just for his dead mother but for his children too. Before his final breaths, Floyd gasped: "They'll kill me. They'll kill me." As Floyd shouted for his life, an officer yelled back at him to "stop talking, stop yelling, it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk." The chilling transcripts of Minneapolis police body camera footage that were made public were filed in state court as part of an effort by one of the officers on the scene, Thomas Lane, 37, to have charges that he aided and abetted Floyd's murder dismissed.
Trump Report on Finances Postponed Again
Trump's annual financial disclosure report was due to be released more than a week ago. Yet the filing, the only official public document detailing his personal finances, was not published, and neither the White House nor federal ethics officials offered a public explanation. The White House addressed the issue when an official said that Trump had requested a deadline extension because the report was "complicated" and the president had "been focused on addressing the coronavirus crisis and other matters." The report, required under federal ethics rules, provides a partial view of the president's assets and debts and the performance of his family business. It was originally due in May, but Trump and all White House employees were given a 45-day extension until June 29th because of the pandemic.
Trump Has Avoided Releasing His Tax Returns for a Decade
In September 2016, Trump stood on the debate stage as a presidential candidate and addressed a question that had dogged him on the campaign trail: When would he release his tax return? "I'm under a routine audit, and it'll be released," Trump said. "And as soon as the audit is finished, it will be released." Nearly four years later, the White House says the I.R.S. is still at it. "His taxes are under audit, and when they're no longer under audit he will release them," Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters. In fact, every sitting president's returns are audited as a matter of routine, and the I.R.S. has long said that nothing prevents an individual from making tax returns public while an audit is underway. Every president since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released his returns. Trump, however, has promised to release his tax returns under varying conditions for nearly a decade.
Judge Asks Full Court to Hear Flynn Case
Emmet G. Sullivan, the judge overseeing the case of Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn asked a full appeals court to review an order by a panel of its judges to end the prosecution, saying that the ruling marked "a dramatic break from precedent that threatens the orderly administration of justice." The request by Judge Sullivan was the latest turn in an extraordinary legal battle over the case against Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in late 2016. The Justice Department sought in May to dismiss the case in a highly unusual move that prompted accusations of politicization, and Judge Sullivan appointed an outsider to argue against the department's request rather than granting it.
White House Pressured National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) felt that his job and the jobs of others would be in jeopardy if the agency did not rebuke forecasters who contradicted Trump's inaccurate claim last year about the path of Hurricane Dorian, a government report found. The inspector general's report examined the aftermath of Trump's insistence that Hurricane Dorian was headed toward Alabama, which National Weather Service forecasters in Alabama contradicted. It found a politicized process that investigators described as having "significant flaws" in which late-night demands from White House led to urgent intercontinental telephone calls, text messages, and emails that culminated in a controversial NOAA statement criticizing the forecasters.
Colonel Who Testified Against Trump Will Retire
An Army officer who was a prominent witness during the impeachment inquiry into Trump last year announced that he had decided to retire after what his lawyer called a campaign of White House intimidation and retaliation. The incident is the latest in what Pentagon and Congressional officials say could be another flash point between the president and the military. The witness, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran who served on the staff of the White House National Security Council, is among scores of officers who have been picked to be promoted to full colonel this year. Typically, such promotions are backed by Army and Pentagon officials before moving to the White House for final approval, and then to the Senate for a confirmation vote. Senior Army leaders were caught off guard by Colonel Vindman's decision. McCarthy was expected to have a general officer contact Colonel Vindman to discuss his options, an administration official said.
U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Chinese Officials Over Mass Detention of Muslims
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on multiple officials from China, including a senior member of the Communist Party, over human rights abuses against the largely Muslim Uighur minority, a move that is likely to inflame tensions between Washington and Beijing. The targets of the sanctions included Chen Quanguo -- a member of China's 25-member ruling Politburo and party secretary of the Xinjiang region -- and is likely to anger top officials in the Communist Party given his stature. Other officials penalized include Zhu Hailun, a former deputy party secretary for the region; Wang Mingshan, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau; and Huo Liujun, a former party secretary of the bureau. The bureau also faces sanctions. In recent months, Trump administration officials have criticized Beijing for its response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as its efforts to suppress pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and its mass detention of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities."The United States will not stand idly by as the C.C.P. [Chinese Communist Party] carries out human rights abuses targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Woman Becomes a Green Beret
A female National Guard soldier graduated from Army Special Forces training and earned the title of Green Beret, the first woman to do so since the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including those in the Special Operations community, to women in 2016. The woman, an enlisted soldier, was on track to graduate in April, but was forced to repeat part of the training before continuing to the final portion, known as Robin Sage, which tests the candidates on a range of skills considered essential to becoming a Green Beret, according to military officials. The soldier's name and other biographical information have been withheld by the Army for personal and operational security reasons as she enters the secretive Special Operations community. Her socially distant graduation, during which she received her Special Forces tab and donned her Green Beret alongside her classmates, is a landmark moment, as the Green Berets were one of the last assignments in the Army without any women.
Northern Right Whales Are on the Brink of Extinction
With only about 400 Northern Right Whales left in the world, every individual is known to researchers and cataloged. Such whales, which were named because they float after being killed and thus were considered the "right whale" to hunt, were placed on the Red List of critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the last classification before they are gone from the wild. The task of responding will fall to an unlikely champion, Trump, whose recent appeals for support from Maine lobstermen could clash with the task of saving the Right Whale.
Students as Young as 10 Join Lawsuits to Block DeVos's New Sexual Misconduct Rules
Students, women's rights, and education groups are suing to block Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's campus sexual assault rules from taking effect next month, with plaintiffs as young as 10 joining arguments that the rules will harm students and burden institutions. Previously, seven students joined a lawsuit the National Women's Law Center filed against the Education Department, outlining how the new rules, which bolster the rights of the accused and relieve schools of some liability, stand to derail their cases or deter them from pursuing them altogether. Plaintiffs include a fifth grader in Michigan who fears that her elementary school will not be required to formally investigate and punish her classmate for assaulting her four times over two months; a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who decided not to formally report her rape at an off-campus apartment because she believed that the final rule rendered her complaint futile; a former student with an open case at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who fears facing her former professor in a soon-to-be mandatory live hearing; and a recent graduate of Harvard University who said she feared the school would dismiss her complaint because she had graduated, even though she said the accused is still a student. "The fear these students are living with show how real the consequences are of DeVos's rule," said Shiwali Patel, the director of Justice for Student Survivors who is senior counsel at the law center. "The rule isn't about evening the playing field -- it's about directly harming survivors and making it harder for them to come forward."
Woman Who Called Cops on Black Man Charged
The Manhattan district attorney's decision to charge a white woman with filing a false police report against a Black man in Central Park does not have the support of one key person: the victim himself.
The man, Christian Cooper, has not cooperated with the prosecution's investigation. The woman, Amy Cooper, lost her job and was publicly shamed after a video Mr. Cooper made on May 25th was posted online; it showed her calling 911 to claim an "African-American man" was threatening her. Those consequences alone, Mr. Cooper said at the time, were in his view perhaps too much punishment. "On the one hand, she's already paid a steep price," Mr. Cooper said in a statement on Tuesday. "That's not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on." However, he added that he understood there was a greater principle at stake and that this should be defended. "So if the DA feels the need to pursue charges, he should pursue charges. But he can do that without me."
The Coronavirus Is Airborne
The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets, and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby. If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially-distant settings. Health care workers may need N95 masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients. The WHO has long held that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that, once expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, fall quickly to the floor. Yet in an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people, and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendations. The researchers plan to publish their letter in a scientific journal soon.
The Racial Inequity of Coronavirus
Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. Black and Latino people have also been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows. "Systemic racism doesn't just evidence itself in the criminal justice system," said Quinton Lucas, who is the third Black mayor of Kansas City, Mo., which is in a state where 40% of those infected are Black or Latino, even though those groups make up just 16% of the state's population. "It's something that we're seeing taking lives in not just urban America, but rural America, and all types of parts where, frankly, people deserve an equal opportunity to live -- to get health care, to get testing, to get tracing." The data also showed several pockets of disparity involving Native American people. In much of Arizona and in several other counties, they were far more likely to become infected than white people. For people who are Asian, the disparities were generally not as large, though they were 1.3 times as likely as their white neighbors to become infected.
Terrifying Lack of Testing in U.S.
Lines for coronavirus tests have stretched around city blocks and tests ran out altogether in at least one site, new evidence that the country is still struggling to create a sufficient testing system months into its battle with Covid-19. At a testing site in New Orleans, a line formed at dawn. Yet city officials ran out of tests five minutes after the doors opened at 8 a.m., and many people had to be turned away. In Phoenix, where temperatures have topped 100 degrees, residents waited in cars for as long as eight hours to get tested. In San Antonio and other large cities with mounting caseloads of the virus, officials have reluctantly announced new limits to testing: The demand has grown too great, they say, so only people showing symptoms may now be tested -- a return to restrictions that were in place in many parts of the country during earlier days of the virus. In recent weeks, as cases have surged in many states, the demand for testing has soared, surpassing capacity and creating a new testing crisis.
Trump Pressures Schools to Open
Trump said that he would pressure state governors to open schools in the fall, despite a steady increase in coronavirus cases across the country. Speaking at a White House event to discuss reopening of schools, Trump said that some people wanted to keep schools closed for political reasons. "No way, so we're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools," Trump said. In a daylong series of conference calls and public events at the White House, the president, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and other senior officials opened a concerted campaign to lean on governors, mayors, and others to resume classes in person months after more than 50 million children were abruptly ejected from school buildings in March. Trump and his administration argued that the social, psychological, and educational costs of keeping children at home any longer would be worse than the virus itself, but they offered no concrete proposals or new financial assistance to states and localities struggling to restructure academic settings, staffs, and programs that were never intended to keep children six feet apart or cope with the requirements of combating a virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.
U.S. Will Pay $1.6 Billion for Coronavirus Vaccine
The federal government will pay the vaccine maker Novavax $1.6 billion to expedite the development of a coronavirus vaccine. It's the largest deal to date from Operation Warp Speed, the sprawling federal effort to make coronavirus vaccines and treatments available to the American public as quickly as possible. The deal would pay for Novavax to produce 100 million doses of its new vaccine by the beginning of next year -- if the vaccine is shown to be effective in clinical trials. That's a significant bet on Novavax, a Maryland company that has never brought a product to market.
Federal Workers Head Back to Offices
As coronavirus cases surge around the country and epidemiologists urge caution, the federal government is heading back to work, jeopardizing pandemic progress in one of the few regions where confirmed infections continue to decline: the nation's capital. At the Energy Department's headquarters, 20% of employees -- as many as 600 -- have been authorized to return on a full- or part-time basis. The Interior Department said in a statement last month that it anticipated about 1,000 workers to soon return daily to its main office near the White House. The Defense Department has authorized up to 80% of its work force to return to office spaces, which could result in as many as 18,000 employees inside the Pentagon building, according to a spokeswoman. Many of them are already there. Private-sector employers remain hesitant to put workers back in their seats. Restaurant and bar owners around the country are shutting their doors anew. Yet agency chiefs at the nation's largest employer, the 2.1 million-strong federal government, are taking their cues from an impatient Trump and summoning employees to their desks.
Woman Says She Was Fired Because Her Children Disrupted Her Work Calls
A California woman has sued her former employer, saying that she was fired because her young children were making noise during business calls while she was working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The woman, Drisana Rios of San Diego, filed the lawsuit last month against Hub International, a global insurance brokerage firm, alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. Rios said she had "worked harder than I ever have in my entire career" since she transitioned to remote work in March. She said that in addition to doing her job from home, she had to juggle her responsibilities as a caregiver to her 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. "I continued my normal duties as an account executive but now added two young children to the mix," Rios said in a statement through her lawyer. "It was extremely difficult, but I managed to meet all the deadlines. There was some days where I had to work late to meet rush deadlines or any duties I couldn't finish during the day because I had to care for both of my young kids at the same time." The complaint, filed in Superior Court in San Diego County, outlines several attempts that Rios says she made to assuage her supervisor's concerns over her ability to meet her work obligations while caring for her children. In her lawsuit, Rios said she told him that she could not promise that there would be no background noise "100 percent of the time." According to the complaint, he told her "to take care of your kid situation."
Who Will Get Vaccinated First?
Federal health officials are already trying to decide who will get the first doses of any effective coronavirus vaccines, which could be on the market this winter, but could require many additional months to become widely available to Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside health experts in April began working on a ranking system for what may be an extended rollout in the United States. According to a preliminary plan, any approved vaccines would be offered to vital medical and national security officials first, and then to other essential workers and those considered at high risk -- the elderly instead of children, people with underlying conditions instead of the relatively healthy. Agency officials and the advisers are also considering what has become a contentious option: putting Black and Latino people, who have disproportionately fallen victim to Covid-19, ahead of others in the population. In private meetings and a recent public session, the issue has provoked calls for racial justice. Some medical experts are not convinced there is a scientific basis for such an option, foresee court challenges or worry that prioritizing minority groups would erode public trust in vaccines at a time when immunization is seen as crucial to ending the pandemic.
Privacy Issues in Virus Tracking Apps
As countries race to deploy coronavirus-tracking software, researchers are reporting privacy and security risks that could affect millions of people and undermine trust in public health efforts. Governments around the world have rolled out several dozen virus-tracing apps this year, Claudio Guarnieri, the head of Amnesty International's Security Lab noted. "But, of course, doing so in a rushed manner, and doing so without proper considerations and the proper design and oversight could jeopardize these efforts." Epidemiologists have said that virus control apps may be helpful additions to public health efforts, especially in countries like South Korea, which has the national medical infrastructure to do mass-scale testing and isolate people who test positive. Yet digital rights groups say that some governments are using apps largely as performative gestures -- to demonstrate to the public that they are taking some kind of concrete action against the virus. "Digital contact-tracing -- the idea that there's an app for that -- is a very hopeful concept," said Carly Kind, a human rights lawyer who is the director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, an artificial intelligence ethics research center in London. "I think governments want it to be true," she added, but often the efforts seem like little more than "do-something-itis."
States That Ended Shutdown Early Seeing Surges in Infections
The current surge in coronavirus cases in the United States is being driven by states that were among the first to reopen their economies, decisions that epidemiologists warned could lead to a wave of infections. Florida and South Carolina were among the first to open up and are now among the states leading the current surge. In contrast, the states that bore the brunt of cases in March and April but were slower to reopen have seen significant decreases in reported cases since. Average daily cases in New York are down 52% since it reopened in late May and down 83% in Massachusetts.
Calamity Looms in New York
New York City, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, is mired in the worst economic calamity since the financial crisis of the 1970s, when it nearly went bankrupt. The city is staggering toward reopening with some workers back at their desks or behind cash registers, and it recently began a new phase, allowing personal-care services like nail salons and some outdoor recreation to resume. Even so, the city's unemployment rate is hovering near 20% -- a figure not seen since the Great Depression.
Child Care Crisis Threatens Plans to Reopen
When New York City decided to reopen its school system, the nation's largest, on a part-time basis in September, it set off a new child care crisis that could seriously threaten its ability to restart the local economy and recover from the coronavirus outbreak. Business and union leaders say the city needs to mount a kind of Marshall Plan-like effort to find child care for many of the system's 1.1 million students when they are not in classrooms. They said there was no way the economy -- from conglomerates in Midtown Manhattan to small businesses in Queens -- could fully return to normal if parents had no choice but to stay at home to watch their children. The concerns reflected a growing recognition across the nation that the reopening of schools could be the linchpin in the broader effort to undo the severe economic damage from the outbreak. The city's approach is similar to that being followed by many school districts, which are concerned that crowded schools might intensify the outbreak.
Brazil's President Tests Positive for COVID
After months of denying the seriousness of the pandemic and brushing aside protective measures, Bolsonaro felt symptoms of Covid-19. More than 65,000 Brazilians have died of the virus. Critics have called Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic cavalier and reckless, allowing the virus to surge across Brazil, Latin America's largest nation. At one point he dismissed it as "a measly cold," and when asked in late April about the rising death toll, he replied: "So what? Sorry, but what do you want me to do?" As the caseload has skyrocketed, Bolsonaro has shunned masks, attended mass rallies of his supporters, insisted that the virus poses no threat to healthy people, championed unproven remedies, and shuffled through health ministers who disagreed with him. Brazil now has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and more than 65,000 deaths -- more than any country except the United States. Bolsonaro did not express contrition for his handling of the pandemic, and doubled down on his assertion that the virus poses little risk to healthy people. He characterized the diagnosis as a predictable outcome of a leadership style that requires him to be among the people.